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other prophecies future, is pleased to turn the weeks into jubilees, and date them backward from the Exodus. Next follow three or four Jewish opinions, which involve on their face an error of mere chronology, amounting to more than a hundred years. When this rubbish is cleared away, and the inaccuracies rectified, among the seventeen authors who remain, there will be found only three distinct hypotheses. This is no very marvellous diversity in so complex and difficult a prophecy.
VI. The weakness of these various objections is now apparent. But, since the minor discrepancies of the best interpreters tend very much, with hasty observers, to cloud the evidence of the main outlines of the prophecy, from their being mixed with points which are more doubtful or obscure, it may be useful to add a few direct observations on this deeply interesting vision, which may help to preserve simple-minded Christians from being staggered by the objections of rash and hasty minds.
1. There is one conclusive argument, which, without involving any question of detail, seems at once to prove that the weeks in this prediction must be interpreted as periods of seven years.
The prophecy, then, contains three main periods of sixty-two, sixty-nine, and seventy weeks. It dates also from some decree to restore Jerusalem, the earliest possible being the decree of Cyrus, B.C. 536, and the latest event to which we can refer it, on the same general bypothesis of a past fulfilment, is the close of the sacred history, about B.C. 410. Now, if we apply the shortest period to the earliest date, and the longest period to the latest date, we obtain for its close the limits B.c. 102; A.D. 80. These are the boundaries within which the main periods of the vision must close on every variety of interpretation. Now these limits clearly include all
the events of our Lord's first appearance and of the Jewish war: they also include one previous century, on which other prophecies give no light, and wherein it was eminently the purpose of God to awaken in the Jewish people, an expectation of the speedy coming of Messiah. The intervals of the prophecy, on this view, are adjusted in exact harmony with its double purpose, to announce beforehand the time of Messiah's appearance and the judgments then to ensue, and awaken and keep alive the hopes of the Jewish Church, until the fulness of the appointed time should be come. Indeed, it seems very probable that our Lord himself referred to this prediction in that first opening of his message-- The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel."
2. The general application of the prophecy, and its fulfilment in weeks of years, is thus fixed by two decisive arguments. First, its words clearly announce the death of Messiah, and a desolation of the city and temple which would shortly follow; and, next, the time of its close, taken in the widest possible limits, exactly corresponds with the facts of history, and with the further design of all prophecy, to awaken hope when the fulfilment is drawing nearer.
But, secondly, the objection from the variety of interpretation is illusive. Its true source is to be found in the difficulties of sacred chronology, far more than in the words of the prophecy.
This is a remark of great importance in the present inquiry. If the date of every event in the Gospel history, and in the return from Babylon, had long ago been fixed certainly, and placed out of dispute, and yet twelve or more various theories had arisen, to explain the fulfilment of this prediction and its concord with the events, there might then have been some strong ground for suspicion that it was misapplied. But, in fact, the variety in expounding the
words of Daniel is scarcely so great as the diversity of judgment upon the actual dates of the evangelical history.
For instance, the three main events, to which we most naturally look in interpreting the seventy weeks, are the birth, the baptism, and the crucifixion of our Lord. The dates commonly assigned to these are B.C. 4, A.D. 26, and A.D. 33. The two writers, however, who, of late, have bestowed most pains on the Gospel chronology, are Mr. Cuninghame and Mr. Greswell. Each of them has prosecuted the inquiry with laborious diligence, and the latter with no common share of discursive learning: yet each of them departs from the common view, and in a different manner. Mr. Cuninghame adheres to the received date of the crucifixion, but. departs from those of the nativity and baptism of our Lord, which he refers to the years B.C. 2, and A.D. 28. Mr. Greswell, on the contrary, retains the common date of these two events, but places the crucifixion three years earlier, A.D. 30. Now, when such, even at the present time, is the debated and obscure nature of the chronology in its minuter details, it is no cause for surprise or doubt that the same varieties should reap-. pear in the expositions of the prophecy.
3. It would be unsuitable to the elementary nature of these remarks to enter at length into the whole ques: tion either of chronology or interpretation ; yet it may be well to add a few observations, which will show the substantial basis on which the common application rests, and the narrow limits of the questions which may still be counted open to debate, and require deep and close research for their full decision. The following maxims seem to be firmly established; and Dean Prideaux, Mr. Faber, and Mr. Greswell, all of them, I believe, agree in their truth.
(1). Of the four Persian decrees named in Scripture
those of Cyrus and Darius and the two of Artaxerxes—the second and fourth are not distinct and independent, but only continue and confirm the first and the third. The decree of Cyrus, again, does not properly relate to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but only of the temple. The decree of Artaxerxes is, therefore, the most natural date of the prophecy.
(2). The accession of Artaxerxes is fixed, by classical authority, to the end of the Julian year, B.C. 465. Hence the first month of his seventh year will be nearly April, B.C. 458, and the year which follows to the close of the book of Ezra, April, B.C. 458-457, will be the most natural date of the weeks in Daniel.
(3). The limit designed by the words, “until Messiah the Prince," must be either the birth, temple-presence, baptism, or resurrection of Christ, assuming the general correctness of the application. But of these the baptisme seems the most natural: for neither at our Lord's birth, nor on his appearance, when twelve years old, iri the temple, could he be said to have properly appeared as the Prince or Leader. At his resurrection, again, he had both appeared and been rejected by the Jews And our Lord's baptism is also connected with the most distinct and only direct note of time in the Gospel history.
(4). The whole of the prophecy is expressed by entire weeks, or periods of seven years, the last half week alone being excepted. Now, in all reckonings of time, we do not take cognizance of parts less than the unit, unless they are expressly named. The prophecy, then, would be satisfied, if the close be less than seven years, in each case, from the mathematical limit. We may, indeed, expect still greater exactness, but this is all that the words absolutely require, by the usual laws of language. (5). The seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks make
a collective period of sixty-nine weeks until Messiah the
(6). Let us now compare the prediction with the
Again, on the same hypothesis, the date of our Lord's baptism would be A.D. 28. Now this is four hundred and eighty-five years, or sixty-nine weeks and two years, from the decree of Artaxerxes : and since the excess is much less than a half week, the period might be justly described as an interval of sixty-nine weeks, neglecting the fraction of the prophetic unit.
(7). Let us next assume the truth of Mr. Greswell's chronology. The baptism of our Lord took place, according to him, in the spring, B.c. 27, and the preaching of John began in the previous autumn. Now sixtynine weeks of years, or four hundred and eighty-three years, from the year B.C. 458-7, bring us to A.D. 26-7, the very year which includes both the first commission of John and the baptism of our Lord, when the voice of God from heaven proclaimed Him the Leader and Commander to his people.
(8). The seven first weeks are marked off for the rebuilding of Jerusalem with the street and rampart. Now the last event named in sacred history, which com